Government to bring in random Covid-19 testing at airports

Government to bring in random Covid-19 testing at airports

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said there will be random testing at airports and an increased public health presence. File photo: PA

The Government is to introduce Covid-19 testing at airports.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the measure was being brought in due to the rise in cases in other countries.

"We're introducing random testing at the airports and an increased public health presence and we're examining other options as well for further restrictions on non-essential travel. "

The minister added that "the international situation is becoming more volatile."

Minister of State for international and road transport and logistics Hildegarde Naughton added that the Government will also be changing the passenger locator form process for people arriving in the State.

The form is currently in paper-based form and will move to an electronic model following the establishment of a call centre, through the Dublin Airport Authority. 

"In relation to following up on passengers who are coming into the country, we're also looking at the potential for pre-flight testing and testing for passengers on arrival," she said.

The junior minister said it was "very important to ensure that we have a balance between public health and also ensuring that we have a viable economy.

"Part of that is ensuring that we have this connectivity, and it's very important to say that yes, Ireland is having a cautious approach in relation to international travel, but it's important to understand that the biggest economic risk to Ireland is having a major second wave or a lockdown.

"In order to avoid that, we need to ensure that we are adhering to public health advice and also rolling out protocols at our airports."

Ms Naughton also said that the Government was "acutely aware" of the issues facing the aviation industry.

The viability of Cork and Shannon airports is under threat as Aer Lingus carries out a review of its operations which could put hundreds of jobs at risk.

The airline is currently in talks with trade unions about laying off up to 500 staff.

"We're working very closely with the aviation sector and the Aviation Recovery Task Force who put in a lot of work in relation to support to ensure that we can maintain this kind of activity," she said.

"When the pandemic happened in March, airlines like Aer Lingus were in a very good position financially and unlike other airlines across Europe who were not able to absorb the shock of Covid-19.

"Aer Lingus was able to function, and was in a very good position financially and that is to their credit.

"We're now in a position where there is a general consensus across the aviation sector that this will be a more prolonged recovery, and we need to ensure that our island can maintain that connectivity.

"We're coming into a period now where we have to really look at this prolonged recovery phase, and my department is actively working with the aviation sector.

"I know this is a very stressful time for workers who are working within the aviation sector in airlines or airports and wider businesses that have an indirect benefit from this connectivity, so I can assure you that we're working very hard to work with the aviation sector to try and support the industry as much as possible."

Some airlines have said that the Government actions have been detrimental to the sector and that the widely criticised travel "green list" has limited travel in the already decimated sector.

The junior minister said that the Government was working hard to ensure the sector remains viable.

"To say that there aren't supports is not true, but obviously we're very cognizant now that we're coming into a new phase, and the airports or aviation sector and our businesses do need to be supported," she said.

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